University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
PhD Program

The Ph.D. Program

Admission to the Ph.D. program is obtained upon recommendation of the graduate program committee and approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Ordinarily, students entering this program will have completed a Plan A Master's degree (thesis) program at UK or elsewhere. Students who are completing a Master's program in the department and desire to enter the doctoral program must file appropriate application materials with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the graduate program committee to obtain approval for admission.

Straight-Through Ph.D. Program

In exceptional cases, a student holding the B.S. degree may enter the doctoral program without first completing the M.S. degree, but only upon receiving special approval. To do so, formal request to by-pass a Master's degree shall be made by the student after the completion of 15 hours of graduate credit. Special approval may be obtained from the DGS upon the recommendation of the graduate program committee and the student's advisor. Should it be necessary, for any appropriate reason, that a student's "straight-through" Ph.D. program be terminated, the student may receive a M.S. or degree upon completion of the requirements for such degree and upon recommendation of the student's Advisory Committee and the DGS.

Preprogram Requirements

It is not unusual for students to apply for admission to a Ph.D. program in Agricultural Economics without having adequate courses in economic theory or mathematics.  In such cases, the following preprogram requirements are viewed as minimal and must be taken for credit:

  • At least two courses in calculus (MA 113 or MA137 and MA 114 at UK)
  • Introduction to Quantitative Economics I (AEC 590 at UK)
  • Advanced Microeconomic Theory (ECO 601 at UK)
  • Advanced Macroeconomic Theory (ECO 602 at UK)
  • Basic Probability and Distribution Theory (STA 424G at UK)

The DGS will determine whether it is necessary for the student to have such requirements at the time of admission and/or an assistantship is granted. Some of these courses may be made up at the start of the student's program.

In cases where the student is entering with all previous coursework from an institution other than the University of Kentucky, the DGS and the student's advisor will decide which, if any, of the preprogram requirements have not been met.

Coursework Requirements

  • ECO 701: Neoclassical Microeconomic Theory
  • ECO 702: Advanced Macroeconomic Theory
  • ECO 703: Introduction to Econometrics I
  • ECO 706: Introduction to Econometrics II
  • Choose four classes from:
    • AEC 606: Advanced Agricultural Marketing
    • AEC 620: Advanced Production Economics
    • AEC 640: Advanced Agricultural Policy
    • AEC 645: Natural Resource Economics
    • AEC 661: Programming Models in Agricultural Economics

Special Fields

All Ph.D. students are required to complete a special field consisting of a minimum of six hours of 600 or 700 level courses beyond the AEC core. The two-course sequence must be approved by the major professor and advisory committee. Field courses can be directed, literature-based study as an AEC 780 Special Problems course.  Students developing a special field of study are required to have taken the core course(s) most closely related to the field.  Fields will not be approved for students who have neglected this preparation.  Core courses and courses that are meant primarily for Master's students are not eligible for inclusion in a field.  Specifically these courses are AEC 606, AEC 620, AEC 624, AEC 626, AEC 640, AEC 645, and AEC 691.

Particular special field offerings are contingent on the availability of research faculty willing to support the sequence. The field courses will normally be taken after the AEC core courses have been completed. Students normally complete their field before taking the Ph.D. qualifying examinations, but this is not absolutely required. The specialty should lead directly into the dissertation topic, reducing the time between the completion of the qualifying exams and the dissertation defense.

Research Paper

A research paper is required of all Ph.D. students during their second year.


No minor is required for a Ph.D., but Agricultural Economics students will normally exceed the requirements of a minor in the area of economic theory. The minimum requirement in this area can be met by a two-semester sequence in intermediate theory (at the undergraduate level or as a makeup after entering graduate school) plus the ECO 701, 702 sequence in micro- and macro-theory, plus at least two additional advanced graduate courses in Economics.

Research Prospectus and Seminar

All Ph.D. candidates are required to write a "Research Prospectus" that outlines the proposed dissertation research. This prospectus will serve as the basis for presentation of the Ph.D. seminar. The prospectus will be developed by the candidate in consultation with the candidate's major professor and advisory committee. The prospectus must be completed prior to scheduling the oral qualifying exam.

The research prospectus is to include the following:

  • Problem statement, including researchable objectives and hypotheses,
  • Relevance of problem,
  • Review of previous work,
  • Theoretical approach,
  • Empirical model,
  • Data sources and collection procedures,
  • Selected bibliography.

The prospectus should normally be 20-25 double-spaced, typed pages. The prospectus must be approved by a majority of the student's advisory committee. It must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Once the prospectus is approved, a seminar will be scheduled, at which the student will present the prospectus to departmental faculty and fellow graduate students.

If you have questions or would like additional information about the AEC Graduate Program, please contact:

AEC Director of Graduate Studies
University of Kentucky
Department of Agricultural Economics
400 Charles E. Barnhart Bldg.
Lexington, KY 40546-0276